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T he Turkish Delight or Lokum is a gel-based, jelly-like confectionery made of starch and sugar. It’s a sticky paste in the mouth, with components like rose water adding fragrance and freshness to the eating experience.
To make Lokum, one needs granulated sugar, water, lemon juice, cornstarch, cream of tartar, rose water, and confectioners’ sugar. First of all, the granulated sugar and lemon juice are boiled in water until it the sugar melts completely. When the mixture comes to a low boil, simmer the heat. It is important that the temperature of this mixture is perfect in order to ensure the perfect texture of the finished Turkish Delight. A lot of professionals use an instant-read thermometer to record the temperature of the base candy syrup. Somewhere around 120-125 degrees Celcius should be good for this preparation. Once the sugar mixture this temperature, it can be removed from the flame.
Meanwhile, in a cup mix cornstarch with water to form a loose slurry and slowly dunk it into the sugar syrup and mix thoroughly with a whisker. Ensure that the cornstarch slurry has been completely incorporated into the sugar syrup. Then put it back on flame and allow it to boil to thicken. Take a spoon and check if the mixture has reached a gluey consistency and then take it off the flame and add rose water or any food colouring of your choice. In the last stage, it is moulded in a container (of any design) and allowed to cool, rest and set. Once set it is then cut and coated in a dust of cornstarch and confectioners' sugar or powdered cream of tartar to prevent sticking. It can be made in a variety of flavours, including chopped dates, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts. More traditional flavours include rosewater, mastic gum, bergamot orange, and lemon.
The dish is often credited to Hacı Bekir Effendi, a confectioner who came from Anatolia to Constantinople in 1776. The story goes that the Ottoman Sultan was so impressed with the dish that he made Effendi the palace’s chief confectioner. Before refined sugar came into play in the 19th century, desserts were made of honey or fruit and wheat flour. Lokum was a breath of fresh air and a transformative dessert.
Another story goes that Lokum dates back over 500 years, being born out of the Ottoman Court under Sultan Abdul Hamid. The Sultan was having difficulties with his several wives and formulated a plan to win them over with good food. To do this, he called upon the greatest confectioners of the empire and the Lokum was introduced. The rest, as they say, is history.
Irrespective of its origins, Lokum’s popularity grew worldwide when, around the 1830s, an English traveller brought some ‘Turkish delight’ back home. The dessert is also mentioned in CS Lewis’ popular fantasy book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where one of the primary characters Edmund is seen enjoying them.
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